Aston Villa ‘Who are You?’: Bruce, Grabban, Birmingham rivalry and SAFC’s ‘necessary’ relegation

Tom: ‘Like Villa, I’m under Chinese ownership’;

Tom Jolliffe* cannot see beyond an away win at the Stadium of Light tomorrow. At least he applies a neat sense of humour, and traces of sympathy, to his asnwers about our plight and his club Aston Villa’s buoyant current state and longer-term prospects (which should not, in his view, include much room for Lewis Grabban beyond the Championship). And however controversial this will be, Monsieur Salut thinks he’s closer to being right than wrong in his assessment of Steve Bruce …

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A Daughter Speaks: how Wigan and Rochdale restored the FA Cup’s shine

Nathalie, left, and team-mates in women’s football. They get exasperated watching us play

Amid all Sunderland’s more pressing problems, it seems almost incidental to reflect on how old you now have to be to have any dependable first-hand memory of May 5 1973: Porterfield’s goal, Monty’s double save, Stokoe’s sprint and our cup.

Never forget that the London branch of the SAFC Supporters’ Association voted years ago to change the name of its newsletter from 5573 to Wear Down South, an excellent title but the choice reflecting younger – and also some older – members’ reluctance to be reminded quite so regularly of how long had passed since the arrival of serious silverware at Roker Park or the Stadium of Light.

And we all know what has happened to the status and allure of the FA Cup in more recent times. It was different in 1973. And if Monsieur Salut’s younger daughter, Nathalie Randall, were somewhat older, enough to have seen that win against lofty, dirty Leeds, it’s a fair bet that the emotion and glory of that day – and her father’s celebrations – might have have steered her into lifelong support of Sunderland, not Liverpool.

But let Nathalie explain how her own feelings about the competition have been affected by two unexpected results, Wigan’s heartening act of giant-killing and Rochdale’s draw against Spurs to ensure at least one day out at Wembley …

From an old birthday card sent to M Salut

Read moreA Daughter Speaks: how Wigan and Rochdale restored the FA Cup’s shine